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Weekend Getaways

Discover the largest forest in Florida (and what lives in it)

Read on to see this amazing video

Three national forests, Apalachicola, Osceola, and Ocala, cover much of north and central Florida. These forests produce 600 billion gallons of water and contain 510,000 acres of wetlands. You can also find 854 miles of rivers and streams in Florida’s National Forests, as well as 36,000 acres of lakes and ponds.

All three forests provide important habitats for migratory birds as well as large mammals such as Florida panthers. Along with these unique residents, there are many recreational activities including camping, fishing, hunting, hiking trails and more. With such an abundance of natural beauty, it’s no wonder these 1.2 million acres remain one of the most visited places in Florida!

The largest forest in Florida

At 567,742 acres, the Apalachicola National Forest is the largest forest in Florida.

©Boomer3195/Shutterstock.com

The Apalachicola National Forest is the largest forest in Florida. It is 567,742 hectares and contains 32,726 hectares of pure wilderness to enjoy.

The Apalachicola National Forest offers an incredible variety of animal and plant species. From tiny amphibians to majestic birds, visitors can spot a variety of wildlife while exploring this beautiful landscape.

In addition to its abundant wildlife, the forest also offers many outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, hiking, and horseback riding that are safe for all ages.

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The diverse ecosystems in the Apalachicola National Forest provide a serene backdrop for whatever activity you choose—whether it’s bird watching or kayaking down scenic rivers and streams. With its diverse flora and fauna, vast natural resources, and family-friendly recreational opportunities, the Apalachicola National Forest will leave you with lasting memories no matter how long your visit!

Apalachicola Forest – where is it?

Apalachicola National Forest
South of Tallahassee in the Florida Panhandle is the Apalachicola National Forest.

©Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock.com

The Apalachicola Forest is located in the Panhandle region of Florida. It is south of Tallahassee, about 45 miles from downtown. It also borders Georgia on its northwest corner. The closest Georgia town to this forest is Thomasville, which is about 80 miles to the north.

wildlife

red-billed woodpecker
The critically endangered red-cocked woodpecker is one of the many species that inhabit the Apalachicola National Forest.

©feathercollector/Shutterstock.com

The Apalachicola National Forest is home to a wide variety of wildlife. It’s not just the big animals like black bears, alligators and white-tailed deer that inhabit this forest. Smaller species such as armadillos, fox squirrels, turtles and tortoises also live here.

There are also many birds in this area! Hawks, wild turkeys, herons and kites can fly around, while warblers and red woodpeckers make their home here. Don’t forget to look up. Apalachicola is home to six active bald eagle nests!

The water sources in the national forest are teeming with amphibians and reptiles. There are many species of sport fish such as catfish, bream and perch. There are 45 different species of snakes in Florida, but only 6 of those are venomous snakes.

Endangered Species

The Apalachicola National Forest is home to the largest population of endangered red-cocked woodpeckers, a rare species that has become increasingly vulnerable due to habitat loss. The endangered gray bat and the great wood stork can also be found in these beautiful forests.

Endangered species living in the Apalachicola National Forest include the bald eagle, flatwood salamander, gulf sturgeon, and eastern indigo snake.

And if you’re looking for large mammals, look no further than the Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus), which is a federally threatened species but can still roam this lush landscape. These are just a few of the many diverse and unique species that inhabit these forests, from reptiles and amphibians to birds and mammals. These prized animals make conservation efforts across the state vital!

climate

The dry season in this forest runs from November to February, and temperatures can range from a daily average of 50°F to a high of 72°F. During the summer months the weather is hotter and wetter as afternoon thunderstorms often increase humidity levels up to 90%. Temperatures typically range from 80°F to 95°F during this time. The forest receives an average rainfall of 55 inches per year.

terrain

Apalachicola River
The Apalachicola River flows through many important areas of Florida, the Apalachicola National Forest being one of them.

©Carolyn Davidson Hicks/Shutterstock.com

The forest consists of different types of terrain, including swamps, sinkholes, and coves. Most of the forest is dominated by longleaf and slash pine, with an understory of gallberry, palmetto and wiregrass.

The Munson Sandhills have oak and pine trees enjoying the deep sandy soil. There are also many geological depressions in the area surrounded by hardwood forests.

The Apalachicola savannas in the southwest portion of the forest have sandy ridges covered with longleaf pines, valleys that are mostly treeless, and wetland communities. The forest also includes many bogs full of wax myrtle and cypress trees.

Story

In addition to being the largest forest in Florida, the Apalachicola National Forest is steeped in history. Before 1880 it was dominated by longleaf pine and wiregrass, similar to coastal areas of the United States. The trees were up to 120 feet tall, many 250 years old, and surrounded by dense groves of seedling.

Unfortunately, this ancient forest was cut down in the late 18th century to extract wood and gum resins that were distilled for turpentine and rosin production. It was not until 1934 that the USDA Forest Service purchased large portions of this area as part of its mission to preserve nature for public use. After World War II, there was even greater demand for timber from this national forest, leading to extensive clearing efforts on its acreage over the next several decades. These areas were replanted with Slash Pines after harvest.

Fortunately, in 1992, the Forest Service’s policy shifted towards promoting healthy ecosystems and sustainable forest management, which has since allowed a portion (25%) of its original native longleaf forests to regenerate naturally. 58,000 hectares are now covered with these trees again.

Camping, hiking and recreation

The Apalachicola National Forest offers a variety of camping experiences for outdoor enthusiasts. From well-maintained campgrounds with modern amenities like hot water showers, power hookups, and disposal stations to remote, rustic locations like river docks or hunting camps that offer few amenities. There is something for everybody.

Due to the mild climate in this area of ​​Florida, camping is possible all year round. Whether you want to get away from it all or just want to spend quality time with nature while still having access to basic amenities, the Apalachicola has a location perfect for you!

Areas to visit

  • Camel Lake Recreation Area – In Liberty County. It has a white sand beach swimming area and a boat ramp.
  • Fort Gadsden Historic Site – In Franklin County. The site of several historical battles. Exhibits, artifacts and displays, and a picnic area.
  • Leon Sinks geological area — In Leon County. Boardwalks and walking trails, picnic areas, running water, restrooms. 640 hectares with many limestone sinks.
  • Lost Lake Recreation Area — In Leon County. A small lake and picnic area.
  • Silver Lake recreation area — In Leon County. Lake with sandy beaches and boat ramp. Bathrooms with showers. Picnic areas with grills and tables.
  • Wright Lake Recreation Area – In Franklin County. Bathing lake with a beach. Bathroom with shower and hot water. Picnic tables with grills and tables. A 5 mile trail goes around the entire lake.
  • Apalachee Savannah’s Scenic Byway — 32 miles near the west side of the forest. A beautiful drive through orchids, pitcher plants, oaks and cypresses. Good chances of seeing the endangered red-cocked woodpecker here.
  • Munson Hills Trail — Mountain biking abounds in the Apalachicola National Forest. The Munson Hills Trail has an 8 mile loop and a 5 mile loop through pine trees and sand bottom.
  • camel lake — A 1 mile nature trail. Campsite with 10 campsites. Each pitch has a picnic table and grill. Shared showers and toilets.
  • trail of the lakes — A 14 km educational trail.
  • Vincent riding trail — An 11 mile loop or a 23 mile loop. Riders are welcome throughout the forest, including on roads and streets.
  • Hickory Landing – In Franklin County. 12 campsites with picnic tables and grills. No showers. A concrete boat ramp.
  • Mack landing — In Wakulla County. 10 campsites with picnic tables and grills. A concrete boat ramp. Drinking water. No showers.
  • Whitehead Lake — 20 campsites with picnic tables and grills. Shared hot showers and flush toilets. No alcohol is allowed here.

Conclusion

As you can see, the Apalachicola National Forest is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. With 567,742 hectares of lush pine and cypress trees, it’s the perfect place to explore nature at its most pristine. Several campsites throughout the forest offer campers spectacular views as well as numerous recreational activities such as fishing, canoeing, and hiking trails. Wildlife abounds here, and even endangered species make their home within the confines of this stunning park. Whether you’re looking for a fun weekend getaway or just want to enjoy some natural beauty without straying too far from home, the Apalachicola National Forest has something for everyone!

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